Speedy Gonzalez, along with several other cartoon characters, came under scrutiny on Wednesday after Charles Blow, a columnist for The New York Times, wrote a defense of those businesses and groups that have canceled six books by Theodor Seuss Geisel, known as Dr. Seuss, over allegations of racism. Blow included in his column a handful of cartoons and other shows that he claimed pushed toxic culture. As Blow writes:
Some of the first cartoons I can remember included Pepé Le Pew, who normalized rape culture; Speedy Gonzales, whose friends helped popularize the corrosive stereotype of the drunk and lethargic Mexicans; and Mammy Two Shoes, a heavyset Black maid who spoke in a heavy accent.
Reruns were a fixture in the pre-cable days, so I watched children’s shows like Tarzan, about a half-naked white man in the middle of an African jungle who conquers and tames it and outwits the Black people there, who are all portrayed as primitive, if not savage. I watched the old “Our Gang” (“Little Rascals”) shorts in which the Buckwheat character summoned all the stereotypes of the pickaninny.
And of course, I watched westerns that regularly depicted Native Americans as aggressive, bloodthirsty savages against whom valiant white men were forced to fight.
Blow’s column sparked backlash in defense of the cartoons that millions of Americans grew up watching. Many spoke out in defense of Pepé Le Pew, a cartoon skunk famous for his numerous failed attempts to woo a black and white cat.
“[Right wing] blogs are mad [because] I said Pepe Le Pew added to rape culture,” Blow tweeted on Saturday. “Let’s see. 1. He grabs/kisses a girl/stranger, repeatedly, [without] consent and against her will. 2. She struggles mightily to get away from him, but he won’t release her 3. He locks a door to prevent her from escaping.”
“This helped teach boys that ‘no’ didn’t really mean no, that it was a part of ‘the game’, the starting line of a power struggle,” argued Blow. “It taught overcoming a woman’s strenuous, even physical objections, was normal, adorable, funny. They didn’t even give the woman the ability to SPEAK.”